Coalition pledges to upgrade old networks

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Coalition pledges to upgrade old networks

Intermediate step but "not the end game".

The Coalition's 'NBN' plan would see it take "intermediate" action to upgrade existing networks while redirecting taxpayer money to fund network construction in areas of market failure, shadow communications minister Tony Smith said today.

Smith told delegates of the CommsDay Summit in Sydney that it would not release its full broadband policy until closer to the Federal election.

But he provided a glimpse into the Coalition's thinking on next-generation broadband in the wake of last month's announcement that it would pull the pin on the national broadband network (NBN) should it win the next election.

Smith said the Coalition did not expect to find a "large volume of irrecoverable" work performed by NBN Co or its contractors and confirmed the Coalition would not "be taking the approach of tearing up contracts".

He believed the "current network of networks can be enhanced" to deliver faster internet services to users faster than Labor's NBN.

Smith claimed "many parts of Australia have infrastructure which could be upgraded to 100 Mbps", referring to households who had access to hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) cable networks from either Telstra or Optus.

He also believed that, aside from HFC, "there are other parts of [existing] networks that could be upgraded."

"Sure, it's not going to be as fast as 100 Mbps but it's fast and affordable enough for today and sooner than Labor's trust-me-it-will-be-worth-the-wait NBN," Smith said.

"I don't say this is the end game but say it's possible to take intermediate actions in the short term to deliver faster broadband services to Australia. Labor has a closed mind to intermediate actions generally."

Smith did not reveal further details of the "end game", saying it was "plainly more sensible to release our comprehensive policy closer to the election."

He has previously suggested the "end game" could involve some elements of the OPEL project, which was scrapped by Labor in favour of the NBN.

Smith also said the Coalition did not support NBN Co buying parts of Telstra, although he acknowledged shareholders would have to consider any offer.

"Nationalising part of Telstra is obviously not something we would support given we were the privatisers," he said. "It would be a backwards step."

He also believed that the release of the $25 million NBN implementation study would "not alter" the Coalition's view that an alternate plan to today's NBN was needed to deliver broadband services to Australian households.

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